Can I Bar My Spouse From the Family Home Prior to the Finalization of Our Divorce?

Each state has its own laws regarding the circumstances under which you can bar your spouse from the family home, whether or not you’ve already filed for divorce. In general, though, you need to get a restraining order or order of protection against him or her in order to legally do it. This, in turn, requires you to allege, and ultimately prove, that he or she physically or emotionally abused you or your children.

Keep in mind that most states consider the family home to be the valid place of residence for both spouses, regardless of whether both of you are listed on the deed or lease agreement. This means that even if you own the home in your name only or yours is the only name on the rental or lease agreement, you can’t prevent your spouse from living there simply because the two of you had an argument or you believe he or she is having an affair, or you no longer want him or her there for the sake of convenience. Your reasons generally need to be far more compelling to a judge.

Voluntarily Moving Out

On the other hand, if your spouse voluntarily moves out, saying or strongly indicating that he or she has no intentions of returning, you generally have the right to change the locks to prevent his or her return if he or she has a change of mind or heart.

Domestic Violence

Obviously, if your spouse commits any sort of domestic violence, your safety and that of your children is paramount. Call 911 immediately, explain what’s happening and request law enforcement assistance to stop the abuse and remove the abuser from the premises. Most jurisdictions consider these calls a matter of priority, and you can expect officers to arrive on the scene shortly, sometimes within minutes.

Even if the abuser has voluntarily stopped the violence prior to the arrival of the police, your best interests dictate that you still make a formal complaint and request his or her removal from the home. Changing your story or attempting to cover up what happened only invites similar abuse in the future.

In other words, if you’re afraid of your spouse, don’t hesitate to say so. Officers are generally more than willing to remove the alleged abuser from the premises and instruct him or her, in no uncertain terms, not to return unless and until a court gives its permission.

Legal Help

Learn more about divorce when you make an appointment with a family lawyer who can help you through the process.